Pray At All Times

Pray at all times? Want does that even mean? How can we do it? Today, let’s take a look at a couple scriptures, and find out more about this injunction, to pray without ceasing. But first, I’d like to share a little story.

My husband has a kidney disease, called PKD. He’s alive and kicking today thanks to a borrowed kidney. Ok, not actually borrowed. The donor stipulated that she didn’t want it back.

Ha-ha. (Kidney donor joke.)

For a number of years, this brave little organ has performed heroically, filtering out toxins like a pro—much better than a dialyzer ever could. With this donated kidney, my husband drinks just as much water as his thirst dictates. He no longer counts ounces, and he never quenches his thirst with ice chips alone.

By the grace of God, those days are long gone. Now he just does what you and I do (assuming you have healthy kidney function). He just drinks water, and those lovely little nephrons in his new kidney filter out all the little bad guys.

When his kidneys failed, he had to clean his blood another way. Two needles were placed in his arm–one drew his blood out of the body, running it through a fancy filter called a dialyzer, and the other one brought back to his body the newly cleansed blood.

His blood would circulate this way for 3-4 hours; the machine whirring, clicking, pumping his blood out of his body, and then back in again. The blood is cleansed over and over, as it runs through the filters in the dialyzer.

Reminds me of prayer, of God’s redeeming work, and of His presence.

God’s Dialyzer

Lately I have felt the need to up my prayer life. I don’t think I’m alone, either. Many believers seem to be sensing a renewed call by God’s Holy Spirit to pray more intently, more fervently, and to even fast and pray. Maybe you sense a calling to exercise a more faithful prayer life, to spend time in deeper and longer communion with God. To find out what “praying at times” even means.

It’s like my spirit needs more and more cycles through God’s dialyzer, repeated sessions into His presence, more thorough washing and regeneration. I want longer and more frequent encounters with the Holy. You, too?

Time in His dialyzer is cleansing, renewing, revitalizing.

And here’s where the metaphor ends.

Times in His dialyzer are not tedious. There is no danger of anything malfunctioning. No fear factor. No dreading the nightly trip to His dialysis chair.

Times in His presence are times of refreshment!

Refreshment

“Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the Presence of the Lord;”

Acts 3:18

Here is another gem from the Word:

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way opened for us through the curtain of His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God,

let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Hebrews 10:19-21

Unlike an ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease) patient, we don’t have to let our toxins build up. We can go to the cleansing fountain all day long! Freshen us, Lord! Forgive our sins and make us like You!

And why shouldn’t we go, often and long? I remember in one Corrie ten Boom book, where she shared an encounter with a woman who came to see Corrie. The woman was stricken with guilt over her sin. Corrie listened for a while, and then she interjected:

“Oh, but knowing it is sin is such good news! Because we know what to do with our sin! We go to Jesus, who always will love us, and always will forgive. What joy!”

Corrie ten Boom

Yes, what joy, indeed.

There’s another cool verse I’d like to share, found in 1 Thessalonians. It’s super short. In fact, it is just three words long. I memorized it many years ago, when I was a kid.

The Waltons

Our family had been watching the television show The Waltons each week, (goodnight, John-boy…goodnight Mary Ellen). My mom especially liked one of the “punishments” meted out by the TV Walton mother.

One of the kiddos misbehaved. (Or, maybe two—Elizabeth and Jim-Bob?)

Anyway, Ma would say, “Alright you two. Ten Bible verses before supper.” My mom liked that, and so she had us kids do that, for a brief spell.

Eager to get it over with, we’d grab our Bibles and hunt for the shortest Scriptures we could find. I think it was my brother who found the famous two-word verse: “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

Anyway, this short verses in 1 Thessalonians came in view, and it stuck:

“Pray without ceasing,”

1 Thessalonians 5:17

What does that even mean? I pondered it, back then and since. How does one pray all the time, literally “without ceasing”?

I have to interact with people, and go to school, or work, etc. And then there’s sleep. I don’t think I can pray without letting up, constantly, no breaks. How is that even done?

Pray With Unceasing Connection

Turns out that the meaning in the original language is actually just a bit different than “without ceasing”. According to the Jamison-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, the Greek actually says, “Pray without intermission”; without allowing prayer-less gaps to intervene between times of prayer.

Isn’t that cool?

Pray without “prayer-less gaps”.

Like, maybe we don’t pray just at mealtime. Not just on Sunday. Not just before bed. Not just when we need help.

Maybe the idea is to stay so close to the Almighty, that He is always at hand.

We make the decision:

I’m going to hang out near His throne room; I’m gonna read His words in the Word…I’m gonna stay close.

When we draw near to Him, inviting Him into our lives, He dwells with us, calling our spirit to commune with His own. When the Holy Spirit fills us, He is closer than close–choosing our bodies for His temple. Daily, hourly, minute-by-waking minute — his refreshing Presence can be ours.

Giving Thanks Prayer

This sort of connection with God is most naturally accomplished when we decide to give thanks—when we are grateful in our spirits, willing to sing to Him, willing to offer Him a moment of worship, remembering to regard Him in the moment. Even difficult moments can find us whispering a quiet word of thanks.

How our spirits are renewed, when we lift them up to Him in thanksgiving, choosing to focus on Him, instead!

Unless they aren’t…at least, initially. I mean, let’s be honest. Sometimes our spirits just don’t feel “renewable”. Sometimes there are just some really hard days, and some really hard griefs to bear. Thanksgiving?

Pray: Even In Grief?

Today was a hard day. My spirit was grieving. My heart, kinda broken. When a friend visited me recently, she helped me realize how much pain I was carrying. She prayed for me on the spot.

And today? Aware of how much this thing hurts, and aware of how much I had stuffed my feelings — today I took the time to stop hiding. I decided to bring my broken heart to Jesus. I laid bare to Him all my pain, and all the sorrow–stuff of which He was already aware. Stuff I had stuffed.

In Him, there is such refuge, is there not? I spent no small time in His healing presence, and to be honest, it took my entire playlist (on this website under “Worship”) to lift my spirits enough to go about my day.

Thanking Him, in your pain, is a decision. It’s not how we naturally feel. But oh, it is the best decision ever, that choice to come near. We experience His healing presence, when we abide in His gentle love, and allow His Holy Spirit to do His work.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Let’s take a look at the verses just before and after that short “Walton Punishment” verse. These three verses form a triad of purpose, a resolve, to turn our attention deliberately toward the Almighty. Notice how we are instructed to do the three things. Then Paul even adds that these three things are God’s will for our lives.

That is quite a statement!

“Rejoice always;

pray without ceasing;

in everything give thanks;

for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5” 16-18

Want to know God’s will for your life? Well, you just read it!

We are invited into an attitude, a particular stance, a decision. It can sound like this:

“In this moment, I will rejoice, anyway.

I will pray without stopping, loving Him for His goodness, despite this hardship.

I keep on thanking Him in the face of this grief that threatens to overwhelm.

I will to love Him still, in the face of this thing.”

We love Him, who first loved us. We choose to be where He is, deriving our strength, courage, and forbearance from the Source of all that is good, from that blessed cleansing fountain—His fountain of Life. Without intermission.

Pray: Abiding

Ponder with me these reflections from a Carmelite Monk (1600’s, France) who lived a life devoted to practicing the presence of God. He wanted to never think of anything else! Most of us are not in a religious order, and we cannot do just as he did.

Yet, we can take a moment, and bend our ear. Take a listen to what his experience taught him. He wrote this to a good friend shortly before he died:

“…in order to form a habit of conversing with God continually and referring all we do to Him, we must at first apply to him some diligence: but that after a little care we should find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty…Pray remember what I have recommended to you, which, to think often on God, by day, and by night, in your business, and even in your diversions. He is always near you and with you: leave Him not alone.

You would think it rude to leave a friend alone who came to visit you: why then must God be neglected? Do not forget Him but think on Him often, adore Him continually, live and die with Him; this is the glorious employment of a Christian.”

(The Practice of the Presence of God, pp 7, 33).

For more on this connected life, read about his experience: The Life of Brother Lawrence: Practicing the Presence of God.

May God help us keep those intermissions short, that we might learn to pray without ceasing.